Sure, the lakes and stuff are nice. And we hear there are some pretty cool mountains too. But let’s not kid ourselves, the real reason you’re thinking of visiting Canada is for the EPIC Canadian food you’ve heard so much about.
But it’s not just about the poutine. Okay, quite a lot of it’s about the poutine. But there are loads of other amazing Canadian dishes you need to try. To help you on your quest, we’ve put together a handy checklist of the best traditional Canadian foods to try. It will be hard to pack all 17 into one trip, but we believe in you!
Few Canadian dishes are as world-renowned as the glorious creation known as poutine. Crispy fries, squeaky cheese curds and rich gravy all combine to create the meal of dreams, and this French Canadian food is so popular that it can now be found all around the world. The classic version is great on its own, but toppings like pulled pork, bacon and smoked meat really knock it out of the park – and at an average price of £3.50, it won’t break the bank either.
Delicious and versatile, bannock is a simple bread that was once a key staple in the diets of Canada’s Aboriginal people. Modern takes on bannock include baked versions (which are heavy/dense) and fried versions (which are crispy and fluffy on the inside). In recent years, bannock has seen a surge in popularity, with new twists and variations popping up in bakeries and cafes nationwide – you have to try it!
3. Butter tarts
Butter tarts are so simple, but oh so good. They’re made by taking flaky pastry shells and filling them with a butter, sugar and egg filling. This is traditional Canadian food at its best, and you’ll be craving these long after you’ve left the country.
4. Nova Scotian Lobster Rolls
Can’t resist these lobster rolls 😍 📸 Neil Conway
Canada is a massive country, with spectacular seafood from coast to coast. Not-to-be-missed experiences include Atlantic and Pacific salmon, smoked salmon, arctic char, and of course, East Coast lobsters. Nova Scotian lobster rolls are a Canadian favourite.
5. Montreal-style Bagels
Montreal’s bagels are the unsung heroes of great Canadian food. Sweeter, denser and thinner than their NYC counterparts, Montreal bagels are baked in wood fire ovens and are often covered in poppy or sesame seeds. The two heavyweights in the Montreal bagel game are St. Viateur and Fairmount Bagel, both of which (we can confirm) are amazing.
6. Saskatoon berry pie
The Saskatoon berry is often described as having a sweet and almondy flavour, which makes it an ideal candidate for the perfect pie. Truly, a slice of this will change your life. It’s no wonder the city of Saskatoon was actually named after it, rather than the other way around.
7. Montreal-style Smoked Meat
Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich with some tasty sides is 👌🏻 📸@eatingwithchu
Similar to pastrami, Montreal’s smoked meat is the heavenly result of beef brisket salted and cured for a week with a range of spices, before being smoked and steamed to perfection. It’s usually served in a rye bread sandwich smeared with tangy yellow mustard, but you’ll also see it as a topping for poutine. The smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz’s Deli have earned worldwide recognition, with some die-hards considering it to be one of the best restaurants in Canada.
The only way to know is to try it for yourself!
8. Peameal Bacon
This special Canadian twist on bacon is made from lean boneless pork loin, which is trimmed, wet-cured and then rolled in cornmeal, giving it its distinctive yellow crust. It’s juicier than American-style bacon, but also leaner and, some might say, more delicious.
Imagine a slab of delicious, deep-fried dough, covered in a variety of toppings like Nutella, Reese’s Pieces, peanut butter and more. While it’s not exactly a traditional Canadian food, beavertails are gooey, crispy and a taste of true perfection. No visit to Canada is complete without one!
10. Split Pea Soup
Classic Canadian comfort food – split pea soup 📸Carol
Ah, comfort food at its finest. With Québécois origins, split pea soup is traditionally composed of peas, pork and herbs blended together for pure, creamy deliciousness. A bowl of this will get you through the tough Canadian winters!
11. Tire d’érable sur la neige
It truly does not get more Canadian than tire d’érable (or maple taffy). This sugary sweet candy is prepared by pouring boiling maple syrup over snow, where the cold causes it to immediately harden. You’re then meant to roll it up with a popsicle stick and enjoy immediately. The result is a rich maple flavour, with a soft, gooey texture – the dessert of dreams!
12. Ketchup Chips
Ketchup chips: a staple of Canadian care packages 📸Mark Hillary
Craving a snack? There are plenty of chip flavours that can only be found in Canada! Many Canadians are die-hard devotees to the Ruffles all-dressed chip, which offers a bit of everything – from tomato and onion to salt, vinegar, sour cream and BBQ. Ketchup chips and dill pickle chips are also mega popular flavours native to the Canadian junk food scene.
Unsurprisingly, there are speciality flavours like poutine and, of course, the inexplicably addictive Hickory Sticks – thin strips of potato with a mild BBQ flavour.
13. Nanaimo Bars
These Nanaimo bars look heavenly 📸Craig Dugas
Named after the British Columbian city of Nanaimo, these three layered slices of heaven require no baking and are comprised of a crumb base layer, custard and a thin layer of chocolate on top, which gives the bar a perfect crunch.
14. Pouding chômeur
Cheap and tasty goodness 📸Jo del Corro
Literally translated to “the unemployment pudding”, this French Canadian dessert was created during the Great Depression, which makes it one of the more traditional Canadian foods on the list. It’s proof that less is more, with a few basic ingredients combined to make a delicious, comforting dessert still loved by Canadians all over the country. Made up of cake batter topped with hot syrup, the end result is a deliciously sweet treat that cures all woes.
15. Caesar Cocktail
The Caesar is Canada’s national cocktail. Made of vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, the Canadian take on the Bloody Mary makes the absolute best brunch companion. Recently, restaurants and bars have stepped up their garnish game to include more than the traditional celery salt rim and celery stalk to include the likes of an entire roast chicken, burgers, hot dogs, sliders, onion rings and more (aka the Checkmate Caesar at the Score on Davie in Vancouver).
If it’s hearty fare you’re after, look no further than the French Canadian tourtière, a savoury meat pie commonly eaten during the holidays (but is popular year round). Recipes vary regionally and by family, but pork, veal, beef and game are popular choices of meat to fill the pie.
17. Game Meat
Moose taco salad – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it 📸@rwcurt
Depending on where you are in the country, game meat may feature heavily. Though not as common in big cities, the likes of venison, caribou and moose are often used as the main meat in certain meals. There are even moose tacos!
So tell me, what’s your favourite Canadian food? Are there any classic Canadian dishes we missed? Let us know in the comments!